Clinton 302
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Trump 236
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Click for Senate
Dem 50
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Ties 1
GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (144)
  • Likely Dem (62)
  • Barely Dem (96)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (62)
  • Likely GOP (78)
  • Strongly GOP (96)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: OH
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA NV OH
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  What Did We Learn from the First Debate?
      •  Presidential Debate Postmortem
      •  Insiders Say that Clinton Won the Debate
      •  Trump Didn't Bring Up the Bill and Monica Show--for a Good Reason
      •  Trump Goes on the Attack, Makes it Worse
      •  Arizona Republic Endorses Clinton
      •  Early Voting is Now Underway in the United States
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

What Did We Learn from the First Debate?

The original idea of having presidential debates was to allow the candidates to explain their policies and to poke holes in their opponents' policies. None of that happened Monday night. In fact, policies were barely mentioned at all. Nevertheless, a number of media outlets have come up with lists of takeaways from the debate. Here are a few of them.

Politico's list of takeaways:
  • Trump was wimpy when defensive. Trump is supposed to be a big, mean tough guy. That image did him well in the Republican primaries, where the candidate with the most testosterone wins (sorry, Carly). It doesn't work like that in one-on-one general election debates, especially not with a woman. Early on, she compared the "little" $14 million loan his father gave him in 1975 (equivalent to $63 million today) to her father's small printing business. Then she went straight for his ego, questioning his net worth and his boastful record on job creation. He didn't take it well. Expect to hear about this again and again.

  • Trump forgot the Clinton Foundation. Everyone expected Trump to hit Clinton on her foundation, but he forgot about it. Or maybe he didn't want to get into a discussion of what her foundation does vs. what his foundation does. While she might have done something unethical (but not illegal) by letting donors to her foundation get access to herself and other important people, his foundation is on record having committed a crime and being fined for it.

  • Trump's "What have you done in 30 years?" attack worked and is likely to come back. When Trump said that Clinton has been in public life for 30 years and has accomplished nothing, she was a bit flustered. Trump is surely going to use the line again, but next time she will be prepared, no doubt listing her work as a New York senator getting money to rebuild New York after 9/11, and her accomplishments as secretary of state.

  • Clinton was effective attacking his business career. Clinton took a number of whacks at Trump's business career, speculating that his refusal to release his tax returns is due to some combination of (1) he is not as rich as he says he is, (2) his charitable giving is minimal, and (3) he pays no taxes. Attacking your opponent's strengths is a potent technique, as John Kerry learned in 2004 after being "swiftboated."

  • Trump's long history of stiffing contractors is going to hurt. Trump keeps talking about helping small businesses, but he has a long history of hiring small contractors and not paying them after the work is completed. Sometimes he refuses altogether and sometimes he offers pennies on the dollar. She is going to bring this up over and over. Trump said that the architect Clinton mentioned in the debate did poor work, so he wasn't paid. However, Trump has been sued 3,000 times. If it is true that he refuses to pay for poor work, she is surely going to say: "You have terrible judgment, hiring incompetent contractors over and over. If you can't even hire a good plumber, why should we believe you can hire a good secretary of defense?"

The Hill's list of takeaways:
  • Clinton came prepared. Clinton spent weeks preparing for the debate, studying thick briefing books and having mock debates with her aide Philippe Reines. It paid off. She was poised, knew how to smirk politely when Trump was speaking, and had a number of prepared zingers ready to fire. Trump probably didn't prepare at all, and it showed.

  • Trade knocked Clinton off her game. One area where Clinton is weak is trade. Under pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), she finally condemned a treaty she first supported. Furthermore, President Obama supports the treaty, putting her at odds with him. Trump also threw NAFTA at her and she was unable to bat it back. Of course, if he tries that again, she is likely to point out that while NAFTA cost some jobs, it also increased U.S. exports, which created jobs, and during Bill's administration, 23 million jobs were created.

  • Birtherism will haunt Trump. Clinton hit Trump hard on his belief that Obama is not an American citizen. He said that he was the one who forced Obama to release his birth certificate. That might be true, but doesn't explain why he continued maintaining that Obama is not a citizen for five years after the birth certificate was released.

  • Trump's closing argument is change. Separate from all the give and take on specific issues, Trump's trump card is that the country is going in the wrong direction and Hillary Clinton offers more of the same, whereas he represents a jolt to the way the country operates. This is probably his best argument, and he is sure to use it again and again.

  • They are just getting warmed up. While the candidates hit hard, if the race remains close, it is likely to get much worse in the next two debates, with much mud flying.

McClatchy's list of takeaways
  • Trump's temperament. Clinton has figured out how to get under Trump's skin. Without a teleprompter, he says damaging things. When she brought up his rooting for the housing market to collapse, he said that's how business works. People who lost their homes as a result of the collapse may have other ideas.

  • The economy. Trump scored points by mentioning companies that have moved jobs out of the country as a result of trade deals. It's a valid point, and will help him with blue-collar workers who used to have well-paying manufacturing jobs. This is a reprise of Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound of jobs going south."

  • Clinton can toss off zingers. Clinton is most comfortable talking policy, but she is quite capable of firing off zingers, as she proved Monday. For example, when Trump dissed her for taking time off from the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, she came back with: "You know what else I did? I prepared to be president." Trump had no answer to that.

  • The political outsider. To the people who see the country going in the wrong direction—and that is the majority of the population—Trump can claim that only an outsider can shake things up. He can say that she just offers more of the same bad policies that people see as "wrong direction."

  • Trump's taxes. Clinton savaged Trump on his refusal to release his tax returns, concluding that he is hiding something. She suggested he hasn't paid any income tax in years, if ever. She also suggested he is not as rich as he says and that he gives little to charity. This issue is not going away.

  • Clinton's emails. Trump hit Clinton on her email server, but this time she said it was a mistake, she shouldn't have done it, and she takes full responsibility. She didn't blame Colin Powell or anyone else. This is precisely what crisis managers say you should do. Admit guilt quickly. The coverup is usually worse than the crime, and Clinton finally gets it. Nevertheless, Trump is going to bring it up again and again, though he will probably get the same short answer.

  • Gender Wars. Trump said Clinton didn't have the stamina to be president. Mistake. She said that after he visits 112 countries, he can talk about stamina.

  • Racial politics. Clinton hammered Trump on his birtherism. Then she conveniently pointed out that racism is nothing new in the Trump family. Decades ago, he and his father were fined by the Justice Dept. for refusing to rent apartments to black people. She is going to continue to paint him as a lifelong racist, so as to make moderate Republicans nervous about voting for someone they know is a clear racist.

  • Staying the course on Iraq. Trump has claimed that he opposed the war in Iraq from the start. But the facts show that is not true. Moderator Lester Holt even pointed that out on Monday. Trump keeps bringing it up in hopes of getting the Bernie-or-bust crew on his side, but it is unlikely to work because he is simply lying and Clinton will remind them of the facts.

In short, both candidates landed some good punches, but Clinton clearly got the best of Trump and put him on the defensive. His strategy of talking over her and trying to rattle her clearly didn't work Monday, and probably won't work next time, so he needs to find a new way to take her down. (V)

Presidential Debate Postmortem

The dust has settled from the first Trump-Clinton debate, and the pundits have had time to register their thoughts. Here's what they are saying:

Left-leaning commentators
Chris Cillizza, Washington Post Winners: Hillary Clinton, Lester Holt. Loser: Trump. "Debates are aimed at revealing not only policy proposals but also personality and temperament... Trump didn't fare as well as Clinton with the split screen. He sighed, made faces and looked, well, not very presidential."

David Lauter, Los Angeles Times Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Four years ago, President Obama did a terrible job in his first debate because he refused to prepare seriously—a trap other incumbents have fallen into. Trump did the same. He boasted that he didn't really need to prepare, and, like Obama, he paid for it. But remember that Obama bounced back. Trump's supporters will stick with him, and that gives him a chance to fight another day."

David A. Graham, The Atlantic Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Clinton's delight was barely hidden by the end of the night... It was the happiest she had looked in public in the last 20 months."

David Gergen, CNN Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Coming into the presidential debate, I thought that if Hillary Clinton won decisively, she would virtually lock up the election. Coming out, it was clear that she did win decisively but I suspect that the campaign will remain ferociously close."

Dylan Matthews, Vox Winners: Clinton, Holt, Barack Obama. Loser: Trump. "Trump is very, very, very good at performing masculinity in a way that belittles and minimizes fellow men. He attacked Rubio for wearing "heels," dubbed him Little Marco, and all but told a debate audience that he had a bigger dick. He repeated a rally-goer who called Cruz a "pussy" and told a crowd that he was a "soft, weak, little baby." He got off on dismissing opponents as weak and feminine. That tactic might be effective within the minority of the electorate that votes in Republican primaries, and against other men, but it simply does not translate against a female candidate and when targeting a wider swath of Americans."

Right-leaning commentators
S.E. Cupp, CNN Winner: Trump. Loser: Clinton. "Trump mostly did the job he had to do. To move undecideds, he had to hammer one point home: Clinton is a politician who doesn't get it. Over and over again, he attacked her as more of the same, out of touch, and a politician who hasn't gotten it right."

Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal Winner: Trump. Loser: Clinton. "If we know anything, it's that this is a change election. I couldn't hear a single element of change in Hillary's outpourings."

Joseph Rago, Wall Street Journal Winner: None. Loser: None. "Neither candidate was better than ordinary."

Ralph Z. Hallow, Washington Times Winner: Trump. Loser: Holt. "To the probable consternation of his critics, Donald Trump came off as authentic and, compared to Hillary Clinton, the more likable of two much-disliked presidential wannabes in their first head-to-head presidential debate Monday night."

Jay Caruso, Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Hillary Clinton came across exactly as I expected - boring, pedantic and long winded. Her attempts at being funny reminded me of the person who tells a joke, laughs and says, "Get it?" to others. Still, Hillary was prepared, in command of the facts and pretty much ran circles around Donald Trump."

Foreign commentators
Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "After weeks of bad headlines, Hillary Clinton and her team will be celebrating tonight. She was poised, on point and even witty. She didn't miss an opportunity to use the attacks that she has spent so long preparing."

Barney Henderson, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Trump. Loser: Clinton. "Mrs. Clinton showed her class on foreign policy and did very well to rebuff Mr. Trump's repeated attacks. Her meticulous preparation showed. Objectively she won the debate by a mile. However, having watched Mr Trump win debate after debate for more than a year when his performance simply seemed waffling and offensive, I think once again what he said tonight could resonate with some of the wavering, disaffected voters they are both trying to win over."

Harriet Alexander, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Hillary Clinton's team will be very pleased with that performance. She was assured and astute—even witty, which can be rare for her. She seemed to be enjoying it, which rattled Donald Trump even more; he struggled to cope with her raised eyebrows, and knowing smiles. "

Anita Kőműves, Nepszabadsag (Hungary) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Clinton prepared and gave Trump no chance."

Marc Bassets, El País (Spain) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Trump. "Trump came into the debate with a reputation as a schoolyard bully who feels more comfortable attacking than being attacked. The image remains."

Across these fifteen commentators, the tally ends up like this:

Clinton: 10 wins, 3 losses
Trump: 4 wins, 10 losses

So, the consensus gives the win to Clinton, who spent Tuesday morning taking a victory lap. "One of my favorite baseball players growing up, Ernie Banks, used to get so excited about going to play that he would say, 'Let's play two,'" Clinton declared. "So I am looking forward to the next debate and the one after that." The Trump campaign, by contrast, was clearly in damage control mode. Trump himself continued to lament his (purportedly) malfunctioning microphone: "My microphone was terrible. I wonder: was it set up that way on purpose?" And though he and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway both gave Lester Holt positive reviews on Monday night, by Tuesday The Donald had changed his tune. "I had some hostile questions," he complained to Fox News. "He didn't ask her about the emails at all. He didn't ask her about her scandals. He didn't ask her about the Benghazi deal that she destroyed. He didn't ask her about a lot of things she should have been asked about. There's no question about it." Trump surrogates, including running mate Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Lt. Gen Michael Flynn (Ret.) also tore into Holt. Outside of Trump Tower, however, there was fairly broad agreement that Holt did a fine job under challenging circumstances.

Also as part of their post-debate spin, the Trump campaign tried to assert that the debate did not hurt their chances, and in fact boosted their fundraising, with $18 million flowing into the Trump 2016 coffers on Tuesday. This may or may not be legitimate; there are ways to "arrange" the books to create momentum like this. Meanwhile, there's some early evidence that the debate did do harm. We suggested that the blunder of the evening for Trump was his bragging that it's "smart" to not pay taxes. The Washington Post's Mary Jordan was with a focus group of undecided North Carolina (i.e., swing state) voters during the debate, and she reports that they were not pleased by that at all. "That's offensive. I pay taxes," said one, "Another person would be in jail for that," observed another.

Meanwhile, the fact checkers, including CNN, NPR, NBC News, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politifact, and FactCheck definitely earned their pay on Monday night. They, for example, had 18 fact-checkers working during the debate and evaluated 33 distinct claims. Clinton was judged to be truthful 11 times, and to be fudging things three times (mostly related to the segment of the debate on trade). Trump was judged to be truthful six times, and to be fibbing 13 times. The other fact checkers had similar results.

Donald Trump has two weeks before he can take another bite at the apple. That is, if he doesn't decide to opt out. In the interim, the pressure is going to be on Mike Pence, who will be given the first opportunity—on October 4—to erase the memory of Monday night. (Z)

Insiders Say that Clinton Won the Debate

Politico asked its panel of swing-state activists, strategists, and operatives about the first debate. These are experienced people who have been in the business of politics for a while and have seen it all. About 80% of them, including 99% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans, said that Clinton "won" the debate. An astounding 88% of all the insiders said Clinton met their expectations. An Iowa Republican said: "Trump was an embarrassment." A Virginia Republican said "It wasn't close." A Florida Republican called Clinton "Calm in the face of an insane person." A Pennsylvania Republican said; "Expectations were low. He needed to exceed [them], and he didn't." Still, Trump found some support among the insiders. A Colorado Republican said: "America is looking for something different. He is very different." A Virginia Republican added: "He spoke in a language that normal Americans understand." Still, on the whole, the insiders were impressed with Clinton's performance and panned Trump's performance. (V)

Trump Didn't Bring Up the Bill and Monica Show--for a Good Reason

In the post-game show, Donald Trump didn't concede defeat. Instead, he said he didn't bring out the heavy artillery—Bill's affair with Monica Lewinsky—because he saw Chelsea Clinton in the audience. Presumably the tender little 36-year-old Chelsea doesn't know anything about this, and it would be terrible for Trump to hurt her feelings. Rudy Giuliani later said that by not bringing up Monica, Trump showed what a nice man he really is.

Right. Except for a couple of small items. First, Hillary didn't do anything wrong, and while blaming the victim works wonders with men, women tend not to like it so much. Throwing that out there will make the gender gap even bigger than it already is.

Second, there is something in the Bible about, "Let he who is without sin chuck some rocks somewhere or other." If provoked, Hillary could politely ask: "When you allowed the New York Daily News to put a photo of you squiring Marla Maples on the front page while you were still married to Ivana, the first of your many wives, was the intention to publicly humiliate Ivana, or was she merely collateral damage?" Then Clinton could suggest that younger viewers just type "Trump and Marla in the Daily News" to Google. This link will save you the trouble. Again, women who don't already know how he devastated his first wife may not be amused. It might not be wise for Trump to bark up that tree, given the predictable response. (V)

Trump Goes on the Attack, Makes it Worse

At the end of debate, Hillary Clinton reminded Donald Trump that he once called the winner of the Miss Universe pageant "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping" (because she is a Latina). Rather than just move on, Trump brought the subject up again yesterday. Trump said that he was right to disparage the woman, Alicia Machado, because she had put on "a massive amount of weight." All this did was keep the story in the news another day, and remind women that Trump judges them only on how they look. Probably his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was pulling out her hair and screaming: "Where's the damn teleprompter?" It is precisely this kind of situation that is likely to cause him more grief down the road. An exchange happens and he is on the losing end of it. Rather than just letting it pass and trying to change the subject to trade or immigration, he digs in to try to prove he was right. All that does is make the hole deeper. (V)

Arizona Republic Endorses Clinton

The Arizona Republic was founded in 1890, and has served a state (and before that, a territory) that has been a consistently Republican stronghold. Consequently, for over 120 years it has never endorsed a Democrat for president. Well, at least, not until Tuesday, when it came out in favor of Hillary Clinton. It observed that:

Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She's tough. She doesn't back down. Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads. That's beneath our national dignity. When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet.

That's hitting The Donald where it's sure to sting.

As we have noted many times, newspaper endorsements don't generally matter much these days. The one exception, according to studies, is when the endorsement is unexpected. So, the Republic's support, along with that of the Cincinnati Enquirer, might actually have an impact. And the fact that they are both in swing states is a bonus. (Z)

Early Voting is Now Underway in the United States

California sent out absentee ballots weeks ago. A few scattered towns, such as Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, have already begun early voting for president. Soon, entire states—South Dakota, Minnesota, and Vermont—will join the list. And by mid-October, it will be up to 37 states, plus D.C. Politico has a complete list.

If Hillary Clinton derives any benefit from the debates, then the timing would seem to be very favorable to her. As we have noted many times, once an early vote is cast, no subsequent events can change that ballot. If she can bank a few million votes above Trump's total before Election Day, she could put things nearly out of reach. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Just one poll today and it is from an unknown pollster, so don't take it too seriously. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Ohio 40% 37% 8% Sep 15 Sep 22 TargetSmart

Today's Senate Polls

Same comment as above, except that many polls have shown Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) ahead, although no other one has shown his lead to be so much. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Ohio Ted Strickland 32% Rob Portman* 47% Sep 15 Sep 22 TargetSmart

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep27 Clinton Doesn't Score a Knockout, But Wins Convincingly on Points
Sep27 Trump's Website Crashes During Debate
Sep27 Trump Can't Find a Mosque to Visit
Sep27 Beck Apologizes for Supporting Ted Cruz
Sep26 Trump Keeps Debate Prep Secret
Sep26 The Candidates and Moderator Will Be on Stage, but the Audience Also Matters
Sep26 Lester Holt Has the Toughest Job of All
Sep26 Priebus Predicts Trump Will Be Consistent and Measured
Sep26 Will the Debate Matter?
Sep26 Could This Be the Only Debate?
Sep26 Mook: Republicans Are Coming Home to Trump
Sep26 Maybe Democrats Shouldn't Be Nervous
Sep26 Politico Fact Checked Both Candidates for a Week
Sep26 Trump Campaign Hopes To Buy $140 Million in Ads
Sep26 HB-2 Has Already Cost North Carolina Almost $400 Million
Sep26 Bush May Make Another Run in 2020
Sep25 Nevada Is Proving Difficult for the Democrats
Sep25 Trump Accepts Cruz's Endorsement
Sep25 Cruz Begins 45-day Walk Along a Fine Line
Sep25 No Fortune 100 CEO Is Backing Trump
Sep25 New York Times Endorses Clinton
Sep25 Clinton Is Actively Chasing the Biggest Minority Group
Sep25 Philippe Reines Is Playing Trump in Clinton's Mock Debates
Sep25 Trump Might Put Gennifer Flowers in the Front Row Monday
Sep25 Trump Could Be a Harbinger Rather than an Aberration
Sep25 Appeals Court Strikes Down Ohio Voter Purge
Sep24 Ted Cruz Caves and Endorses Trump
Sep24 Cincinnati Enquirer Endorses Clinton
Sep24 Clinton's E-mails Will Not Be Released Before the Election
Sep24 Each Candidate Has Different Things to Think about before the Debate
Sep24 Trump's Money Woes Are Causing Internal Squabbles
Sep24 Trump Campaign: No Hablamos Español
Sep24 Eric Trump Says His Father Began With Just About Nothing
Sep24 Trump Adviser's Ties to Russia Being Investigated
Sep23 Ad Spending Reveals the Campaigns' Priorities
Sep23 Why Isn't Clinton 50 Points Ahead of Trump?
Sep23 75 Ambassadors Endorse Clinton
Sep23 Trump's Primary Opponents Give Advice on How to Debate Him
Sep23 How Trump Can Win the Debate
Sep23 Trump Warns Lester Holt About Fact-Checking
Sep23 Running for President for Fun and Profit
Sep23 Judge Rejects Attempts to Unseal Trump's Divorce Records
Sep23 Heck's Son Embarrasses Campaign
Sep22 Trump Attacks Washington Post Story about His Foundation
Sep22 Clinton's Bad September Could Help Her in the End
Sep22 Trump Supporters Respond to Fake Story about Trump's Taxes
Sep22 Trump Would Boost National Debt by More Than $5 Trillion
Sep22 Trump Endorses Stop-and-frisk as Solution to Inner-City Crime
Sep22 Cruz Considering Trump Endorsement
Sep22 About a Third of All Voters Are Voting Against Rather Than for a Candidate